Something my literature professor said last week really struck a chord with me, though. She was talking about authors framing their stories in certain ways in order to make connections with past literature, juxtapose certain concepts against others, allude to certain things, etc. It made me realize that maybe studying old literature can have a positive impact on my writing, even if I'm not using that literature as a model for how to write my own stories.
For instance, an author we studied this year was Alexander Pope. He wrote what is called a "mock epic," in which he used all the literary devices of an epic poem, but he was writing on the subject of a lost lock of hair. By putting the story of a lock of hair being cut off in the frame of an epic poem, he helped make his point that the people involved were making mountains out of molehills.
So, what do you think? Does the English major have practical value? Will it help me with my writing? Or do you think I should switch to Linguistics or the English Language major, which I could finish up and have a degree with much quicker?
Those of you who have been around the proverbial writing block for a while will have heard this term and probably even know what it means, but humor me here, because I'm going to give you my definition. Let me know what you think. And let me know, are you a pantser or a planner?
n. One who writes a novel by the seat of one’s pants, or, in other words, without plotting, planning, or outlining. She’s a pantser, so don’t expect her to do any outlining before she sits down to write her novel.
Derivational morphemes can be affixed or removed, creating such forms as “pantsing,” “to pants,” “pantsed,” etc.
On October 13, 2010, the organizers of National Novel Writing Month, (NaNoWriMo) published an article titled, “The Great Debate: Are you a planner or a pantser?” The term had been used within the writing community for a few years prior to that time, but it increased greatly in use and acceptance after the article appeared.
Pantsers are generally looked down upon by planners, and the term is sometimes used in a derogatory way when said planners are trying to tell aspiring authors how to go about their craft. Not all writers think being a pantser is a bad thing, though. In fact, there is a small minority that believe pantsing to be a superior method of drafting the novel. Some authors take the stand that either way is perfectly acceptable, as long as it works for the individual.
Some authors claim to be a hybrid (somewhere between pantser and planner), one who does some light planning but generally wings it, to differentiate themselves from those who spend copious amounts of time plotting, planning, and outlining all the minutia of their stories. However, purists would still call the hybrids “planners.” To truly be a pantser in their eyes, you have to sit down with the blank page and let the characters and the plot take over with no idea where they will lead you.
The term pantser is still not in wide use, although it is generally used and understood within the writing community. However, we predict that it will gain popularity and perhaps someday generalize to mean “one who does anything by the seat of one’s pants.”
1. Plotter 2. Planner
With school starting this month, my life has gone from lazy summer days to every spare minute being cram-packed with activity.
This year, the craziness of back-to-school was amplified by several factors. First of all, my baby started first grade. Am I a bad mom for not crying and wishing she were my little girl some more? Part of me is a little wistful, but mostly, I have to admit that I'm loving this stage of my life. My oldest child is baby-sitting age and actually able to cook some basic meals, and all four of my kids are in school full-time, and old enough to mostly take care of their own needs. No more potty-training in this house! No more diapers or forcing baby food down unwilling mouths!! And no more endless days of trying to keep bored preschoolers occupied while their older siblings are in school.
So, you'd think my life would be less crazy right now than ever, wouldn't you? But if you thought that, you'd be very, very wrong. Because I decided to go back to school myself this fall and pursue a degree. That's right - while my kids are at school and the house is nice and peaceful, I'm not even there because I'm going to school full-time.
I'm so, so excited about it, though! I love school - always have. I'm learning so many interesting things and engaging in so many interesting conversations with so many interesting people.
So, the degree I've decided to pursue shouldn't come as a big shock - I'm going to get my degree in English with a creative writing emphasis, and I'm going to minor in editing. I've found over the years that I love the critiquing and editing and revising parts of writing even more than the writing itself, and I think editing is just the thing that I would love to do if I have to go out and get a job someday to support my family.
I've been an even longer while since I posted anything other than a book review.
It's also been a long time since I've written anything at all.
Until this past weekend. I went to the iWriteNetwork conference in American Fork, and it was awesome.
I even had the Simon Cowell of the writing world say he actually kind of liked my sentence. Woohoo! :o)
He wanted us to write a unique one-sentence description of a lake. Here was mine: "The morning sky paints orange and red streaks on the blank canvas of the water."
I was a little bit terrified as he tore apart almost every other sentence, but he actually kind of liked mine. *phew!*
The thing I loved absolutely most about the conference was that most of the classes were workshop-style. In other words, we learned for a while, and then we PRACTICED. Loved. It.
One of my favorite classes was Karen Hoover's class on poetry. I really need to write poetry more. It's so therapeutic, first of all. But secondly, it does help get me in the mindset of writing prose more beautifully - and powerfully.
Another great take-away was Cindy Hogan's brainstorming technique. She goes walking in the morning (slightly earlier than I'll be going walking, I can tell you that) ;o) and talks into a voice recorder about her story. She doesn't actually /write/, just brainstorms, talks through problems, etc. We tried it out for a few minutes, and I actually really liked it. Got the juices flowing.
Honestly, all the different presentations on brainstorming were great. And I think I know why brainstorming in the shower works so well - not only are you alone, without kids interrupting every thought as it flits through your brain, but there are no electronic devices to distract you from your purpose. I think we don't get enough time to just think. Don't you think? :o)
There were quite a few other things I found very helpful, but those are the ones that really stand out in my mind. I feel energized and ready to jump back into writing. Wish me luck!
I'm not always the best at keeping promises. I try to be, but my procrastination often gets the best of me. For instance, I promised my friend Carolyn that I would read her new book, "Promises" and write a blog post about it by March 29th. As I type this post, it's about 10:30 p.m. on March 29th. Hopefully I'll have it up before midnight.
If the results of the photo finish come back and show that I made it - that my post went live before the date changed - does that mean I kept my promise? Technically, maybe. But I don't think that kind of finish inspires people to trust you to keep future promises. It sends a message that you didn't truly value them or the promise you made. I hate sending that message so consistently, but I haven't figured out how to break out of the cycle.
The problem, I think, is that I put things off, knowing that I have time to do it later and I have other fires to put out from other things I've procrastinated. When I buckle down and start working on the thing, whatever it is, I usually do have time to finish it without such a rush --- IF the world were perfect and nothing ever came up out of the blue, I never forgot any of the other critical things I also had to get done, I hit every green light, and none of the kids' shoes ever wandered off.
Sadly, although I do believe in the maxim, "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today," I end up living the reverse: "Don't do today what you can put off until tomorrow."
So, what do you do to keep yourselves on track without getting in the vicious constantly-putting-out-fires cycle? I'd love to get some advice!
At any rate, here I am, ready to tell the world about Carolyn Twede Frank's new book, "Promises." It's about Hattie, who has to move to a new town as a 12-year-old and has to struggle to make new friends and adjust to a different lifestyle. She stumbles upon a mystery in the process, and that's when things start to really get interesting.
The book blurb says: Promises is a heartwarming story of friendship with a touch of mystery and adventure set in the days before Bryce Canyon became a national park. Drawn from the memoirs of Hattie Adair Jolley and her children, it is a realistic glimpse into the past and a delightful story for readers ages eight to eighty.
This is the first time I've read any of Carlyn's writing, and I'm impressed. I felt drawn into the story immediately, and I really liked Hattie. She was cute and spunky and just an all-around sympathetic character. I wish I had asked my daughters to read it, too, and get a kids' perspective before writing this, but of course, that didn't happen what with the procrastination and all. But I felt like her voice was authentic and I really enjoyed the story. I love historical fiction and I don't read enough of it, so this was a nice treat.
You can find out more about Carolyn by stopping by her blog.
Check out Cindy Hogan's blog, too, and find out about another book, "Protected," which is the second book in the "Watched" series.
I found the tone of the book and the ideas she shares to be right in line with her presentation at Ed Week, so I was really happy about that.
Despite the subtitle's promise that you can "transform your life in just 8 weeks!" I found the message of the book to be more on the "slow and steady wins the race" end of the spectrum. Connie repeatedly reminds her readers that they should pick just one goal each week and focus on it, rather than trying to implement lots of her ideas all at once.
At the end of the 8 weeks, you will have accomplished one goal from each of the 8 areas. (Holy Habits * A Personal Life Plan * Being Fit & Fabulous * Your Finances* Joy in Womanhood * Balance in Motherhood * Organization * Relationships) At that point, she encourages you to stop and assess what you've done, but then she also gives you tips on how to keep going.
I haven't made it through the whole 8 week program, but I have made some progress. I feel the program as a whole is doable and helpful, and I'm excited to keep going.
You can buy Connie's book here.
Connie has lots of extra tips and resources on her website. Click here to check it out.